Thursday, 30 September 2021

Lavenham Holiday

 After a few days back home, looking out the best of the pictues of a holiday and recapping all that we enjoyed, I spend a little more time getting to appreciate all the places we visited. Of course holidays away have not been possible, and for the moment we were very happy to be able to have spent our holiday in a area that is completely new to us.  The weather was as good as it can get which we took full advantage of, and enjoyed many walks and outside activities.

We chose Lavenham, it had been on our list for several years ago and had our holiday booked originally for May 2020.  Helen Burgess who owns Staddles was most accomodating back then with a full refund as soon as we realised that the country was is a 'no travel' situation.  

With a handsome view of half timbered houses opposite

and a painterly view from the front doorstep towards to centre

This Medieval Wool Town had ample interesting small roads to amble around and fine houses to view. We took advantage of the quiet, almost traffic free evenings to wander around and view fine houses with often glimpses into their beamed interiors.

On one of our late afternoon saunters a few beautiful vintage cars were parked in the square and we got chatting to the owners sitting outside The Angel Hotel as they relaxed. Of course they had been carefully dusted off after their drive,  I could see in gleam of pride on the owner's face when I couldn't hlep but capture the lovely sky in the deep midnight blue of the paintwork.

We visited the Guildhall and also the very interesting Little Hall Museum which is run by the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust. 

If you are visiting Lavenham and have only time for one, then Little Hall is by far the best.  We took advantage of the short introductory talk by one of the volunteers who explained about the history of the town and source of wealth which was from Lavenham Blue woven broad cloth.  A good outline of how the house came to be bought by Gayer-Anderson Brothers and their family history, restoration of the house, and their many other interests which gave a substance to understanding all the furnishings, pictures and works of art in the house. Compared to all the English Heritage Property and NT houses we visited, this I rank far above those.  The gardens too were charming.

Guild Hall to the right across the square

Next door to the Little Hall Museum is The Great House, where we treated ourselves to Lunch just the once! We had to book in advance to get in. We were not altogher impressed with a few of the touches such as a ie one teaspoon of sweet corn kernels as an 'amuse bouche' and finding that we had been charged for bread on top of the price of the menu.  The addition automatically to the bill of the price of planting a tree, to 'off-set the carbon footprint of eating there,  too came as a jolt so I asked for that the later to be taken off, though I did pay for the bread.  By all means charge for the bread, but make it plain that it is a cost on the menu, and not simply have the waiter say would you like bread with your starters.  Putting that aside this was 'fine cuisine.

Middle courses missing......

The desserts were a Tour de Force.

A less cheffy meal but equally delicious lunch was enjoyed at the Restaurant at No 10 which is on the corner of Lady and Water Streets. Service and staff very pleasant and our dishes were easily altered to suit us better. On the Sunday we had our 'Roast' at the pub The Cock Horse, and as for the Indian Curry House The Mensaab, where we enjoyed a leisurely dinner which was just about as perfect as could be.  Whilst we were there, having enjoyed our starters, and waiting for the main courses to arrive,  I happened to hear a 'Mr Burgess' turn up at the bar to collect their order.  What a coincidence is that?  Of all the days and times we could have been in this restuarant, and my just happening to rear and recognise the name, of course we introduced ourselves, such amazing things happened not that infreqently.  

Much fine quality ingredients and food were purchased from the shops in Lavenham, including the Baker, the Butcher, and local small stores.  

Locally we came to adpot a few 'circular' walks with fine views of the countryside and along the disused railway. I just could not help myself but pick some wild blackberries, some of which were cooked to make a lovely topping for my breakfast cereal.

More seperate posts will follow about visits to gardens, towns and properties....

Monday, 27 September 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Autumnal Hues

Overnight we have had winds and rain, and with the shorter days and slanting light beams in the house, it feels like Autumn. Yesterday, I noticed the seed heads forming on a Crocosmia, and thought they would go nicely with the Dahlias.  I have just one Dahlia growing in a pot.  I was delighted to be given a plant earlier this year by Alison, to whom I had mentioned last year that I was after Dahlia David Howard.  I seemed to have caught all the small snails and this morning there did not seem to be much more disfigurement.  

Set off with its bronze coloured leaves it makes a fabulous late Summer and Autumn statement.

Just using the two elements didn't seem sufficient, but the addition of a couple of stems of Persicaria Red Dragon, and seed heads of Scabiosa caucasica 'Perfecta Alba'.  Both vase and the soldier are Chinese.  My mother had an extended visit to China decades ago, and it had been her vase, and following her persuation Mr S and I visited in the 1990s and have many enjoyable memories of our time there, and our soldiers are scattered around the house, reminding us of those days.

I've picked another  bunch of flowers which are destined to take to a friend, but it wouldn't be fair to show those.....

Cathy is our host, and you can follow the link just to view othr arrangements, or why not join in.  You need not do this each week.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Six on Saturday - 25 September 2021

 Over stuffed, that is what comes from being away for nearly a fortnight.  You might think that is what I am feeling, but although we had some fab meals out, I weigh the same as I did when I left.  Overstuffed is what I think my garden is.  I just can't seem to come away from places with new plants.  I must be delusional thinking that they will find a home.

1. Mr S drove me for over a hour to visit Beth Chatto's garden and it was definetly worth it.  Thisis a glimpse of some of my holiday sourvenirs. Crocosmia Emily McKenzie came from the another supplier, but I came home with Verbena bonariensis 'Little One', Phyla nodiflora, and Limonium bellidifolium all of then I saw growing in the gravel garden.

I was impressed by the gardens and also the nursery and the quality of the plants.  One plant I had seen coming into flower was the yellow crocus looking Sternbegia.  Someone on the yard found me a pot from the polytunnel, I went through the checkout, and as I usually do I check that everything went through.  I felt the price was a little low, and double checking it went through as £0. Of course I querried this, but as the plant was not on the system, I was unable to pay seperately.  Of course they were pleased that I had pointed it out.  I am pleased that I noticed it, but sad that I was unable to find a way for paying for it.  They are now on the site for puchasing, but maybe the garden is too stuffed!

2. It only takes a damp day to bring out the snails, and this little one managed to slither its way up onto Dahlia David Howard. Good job I went out just now to take some pictures for this SOS.

3.  And away they grow.  I picked some lettuce yesterday after having been 'starved' of my usual salads. That explains the few missing leaves in this picture.

4. I'm very impressed with Salvia Leucantha and will take cuttings shortly as I am happy with the rate of growth in one season, and would like the space to grow things in earlier on it in the season.

5. One of the plants I saw growing in the Chatto Gardens was a ground hugging plant called Phyla nodiflora. It is a creeping vervain know as Turkey tangle frogfruit, worth it for the name! I'll give it a try around the stepping stones.

6. A warm sunny September is definetly the right weather for ripening chillis.

Thats my Six.  This weekend will find me chopping back things, taking cuttings, and planting out new acquisitions. I'm going over to join in with The Prop and others. 

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Mauritian Rougaille

 Both the smell of rougaille cooking and the taste of this deeply flavoured creole tomota sauce is enough to transport me back to my youth in Mauritius.  Every home had their own version and no one variation can be said to be the best one.  Afterall there are just so many homes, and I had eaten that dish only at nearly of my friends and relatives homes, and in Mauritius nearly eveyone falls into that category!  But of course not those on the other side of the tall mountains....a bit of a tall story there.

Last Christmas our plea of no Christmas presents fell on deaf ears fertile ground, well at least the little tomato and basil seeds did fall on soil, and two tomato plants were grown together in a large planter in the garden.

The tomatoes started to ripen at the start of August, and a few were enjoyed in small helpings of rougaille.  Mr S finds raw tomatoes agravates his selection of aches and pains, but cooked tomatoes for now don't.  I had left offf tomatoes myself for a few years, but am enjoying them in moderation again.

Both plants had the majority fruit ripe yesterday, so I decided to cut the plants right back, and with the ripe tomatoes make a batch of rougaille to freeze and enjoy in future months.

Onions, garlic, ginger which I forgot to add, fresh green coriander seeds, tomatoes, parsley and thyme, sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  It is all in the technique...ready to sieve and use in a sophisticated Sauce Rouge, or use with grilled meats or fish, maybe as a topping for pulses....Unless as a sophistaced dish, I like it just like this.  Not quite Rougaille Saucis as the Mauritian sausages are quite something: for lunch a week back we had duck sausages from Wells market, grilled then gently tossed in this hot red sauce, with runner beans from the garden.

Six on Saturday - 11 September 2021

The coutyard or gravel area is now as tidy as it is going to get.  All those plants that I had promised people and which had been settling into their pots havea all been distributed. 

1.The large multistemmed Aeonium Velour, has now been broken up with many friends and other fund raisers the beneficiaties of its largess, Only five rossettes have been kept and are settling in niceley.  Next spring the best will be selected to grow on in a special pot and the rest distributed again.

2. Last year, in the autumn I split up the two Asters: Monch and King George. The warning is usually to split in the Spring, but I thought I could get away with it. I lost Monch: both the divisions that I planted straight away and the ones in pots.  King George though has done well, and three sections are doing nicely.  It was the same with the pieces I passed onto my friend Alison.

3. Is it normal forViola Pedata to flower in the autumn?  Oh, it is in its home land in and around the Mississipi it is, so why not here too!

4. This week's bee magnet is Allium senescens montana glaucum.  It is making quite a good sized cushion of leaves and flowers this year.  I saw a very large clump when visiting Derry Watkins's garden during the week.  I wouldn't want this twirly leaved allium clump to get much bigger, so once flowering is over, I shall be dividing this one.

5. I acquired Salvia syanescens earlier this year from Pottertons and that plant which you can just see behind the allium in the picture is going well.  I am even happier that a cutting I took earlier this year has taken well.  This one I shall grown on and have it in an 'Alpine pan' to go on the display shelf. I have taken it partly as an insurance, as the one in the gravel garden needs to be moved.  A few plants in there require a shuffle around now that I understand exactly when they are likely to flower, and which plant is hidden at that time by others.

Another kilo of beans awaits me, as soon as I've posted this! Pleased to say the weather is lovely today, and I shall be able to sit out in the garden to slice the beans. It is a piccallili type of preserve, which we enjoy very much during the winter. 

Monday, 6 September 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Follow my leader

 I wasn't going to post today.  After baking buns this morning and a few other tasks, I felt tired out.  Today it is hot,probably as not as it has been all summer this year.  I was just going to view Cathy, the Queem Bee's Post and suddenly I became motivated. She has inspired me to put some bee things together. 

Just before I opened up the computer, I was sewing up a button and noticed the motif that I had embroidered on my scissor keep.  We made scissor keeps under Kay's tutelage, and it is a lovely reminder of that sewing group in Kenilworth.

I started with Pelargonium Capricorn with its bee guide lines clearly marked for us as well as the bees.  Probably bees can see far more different colours etc than we can.

Next door to Capricorn is Pelargonium hybrid sidoides x reniforme “Burgundy” which is just the colour of the lines on Capricorn.

Other bee magnets are the
Allium senescens montana glaucum which is just coming into flower. This clump forming allium with its flattened swirling leaves is the bright spot in the gravel garden at the moment. In there as well is Origanum Bristol Cross, Sedum erythrostictum 'Frosty Morn' and the heads of the white Scabiosa caucasica 'Perfecta Alba', which have been pollinated by the bees, and hopefully now contain some seeds.

This bit on the scissor keep has been added with a link to the original project back in 2011.
Here is another scissor keep and a little reinforced holder which slips into the sewing thing holder which is called a housewife the first mention of that being in 1749. In effect it is a portable sewing kit.

Something has happened to my camera, but I am too tired to sort it out at present, and I think I would rather join in than not.

Top tea cakes by Dan Lepard

 This morning I would have had a 'breakfast bun' but there were none left, so it was time to bake some.  Not having tried Top tea cakes from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet, I thought I would give it a try.  

The recipe in the Guardian is more or less the same as in the book, so go there for details. Beter still get yourself the book whether brand new or second hand, there will be lots you want to bake from there.

I used the last wedge of crystalised lemon, cut up finely.  Its time I checked again to see if my favourite local wholefood shop has received in their annual consignment of orange and lemond peels, which they get in ready for the big Christmas Cake baking sessions.

As I did not have enough, I added chopped crystalized ginger before even realising that there was a section called 'Tweaking those Tea Cakes'.  The currants swelled up beautifully in the warmed milk, syrup and sugar mixture and I had forgotten just how good they area, afterall in their fully dried state they look far less enticing compored to raisins or sultanas, but plummed up they have just the right scale for a small bun.

A little of the beaten egg was held back, and with a little milk, made for the glaze just before going into the oven.  I followed the technique of cooling them on a wire rack with a tea towel and that has left me with lovely soft plump buns.  Here they are wrapped in these lovely old linen  'hukaback' towels.


Dan must be a chap that likes very big buns, or else he slices them and only has half.  Instead of his 9, I made 13 large ones, and four smaller ones to take over for Sarah's boys later on. 

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Six on Saturday

 As I have the smallest of vegetable areas, I amaze myself regarding the amount of pleasure I get from it.  

1. Of course it would be far easier to cycle to the supermarket and pick up a bunch of spring onions for instance, but as I dig up a small cluster and bring it to the kitchen I know for sure there will be no soil down the hollow leaves, and the whole leaf is used too: the tops going into stir fries etc. I have just dug up the last couple of clumps, prepared them and they are fridge ready to add to salads over the weekend.  Spring Onion Ishikura Bunching  have stood the longest  from when they were first planted out. I shall try sowing the rest of the packet to see if they go over the winter. Starting them off several seeds to each small module has worked exceedingly well, and I shall adopt that method in the future. It makes for a ready made clump, and no need no any elastic band either.

2.The Leeks are planted out.  I just picked up a pot of seedlings from the market a month or so back, and as they were so small seperated them and pricked them out about 12 to a 20cm pot.  I forgot the hard work getting holes into clay.  When I had my allotment it had been double dug initially and was so much easier in comparison. I had planted the first batch using a dibber a week or so ago, and the remainder went it having used a trowel to dig a wider hole, which will slowly get filled in with friable soil and compost.  

3. The lettuce are ready and look strong enough to go out now. These were the ones I pricked out just over two weeks ago.  Only one lost when it was tidy.  There are still far too many as far as Mr S is concerned! I am just dreaming up of all those delicious salads before the soup season kicks in.


4. I had a Furtlenthuse over Chinese Garlic Chives: Allium tuberosum.  

This was the clump which was much admired by our WI gardening group and I offered to share the clump as I had done with the chives.  The formation at ground level is more rigid compared to Chives, and a knife was required to
divide them. 


This is the clump as it came out with its lumps of clay.  After clearing this carefully and washing the roots, I wondered how best to divide them since they were clumped together with a hard woody base.

Maybe at an earlier stage before the flowering stems had hardened up the operation would have been easier.

Within only three days, this morning I am happy to report that divisions are happy and throwing on new leaves. Again one could ask why bother when a small pop could be obtained for £2.  Well its the challenge of learning more about the plant, trying out something new, and getting rid of three pots from my stash as I give divisions away!

5. I had planted out my little coriander seedlings at that very tender stage last week, and the dratted molluscs raised the lot overnight. I might just start a new pot, and only plant them out when the roots fill the pot.  From a clump potted out earlier in the season, which had gone to seed, I harvested these green seeds. They were cleaned and just popped in the freezer.  I find these green coriander seeds used during the winter have just the same zingy fresh leaved flavour without the sliminess of frozen coriander leaves.  I crush a few green seeds in the pestle and mortar and add them to things like carrot soup, stir fries, curries, or pickles. The bees love the flowers in any case. Are there any tips out there on growing this plant well? I would love to hear.

6. From the seeds gleaned from an old chilli which I had grown myself a couple of years ago, and set to germinate earlier this year, the two plants planted in the 'potager' are starting to ripen.  Most of them will be frozen, and some dried, with seed saved to start again next year.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Cobnut and Plum Tart by Dan Lepard

 I had slow roasted some plums yesterday, and was wracking my brains as to what to have for my Thursday treat.  Leafing through Short and Sweet, I came across just the thing: Cobnut and Plum Tart. The recipe is also available on line if you search for it.

Once more a very versatile recipe and technique which in essence is very similar to a crumble topped galette.  I used hazelnuts, and with the roasted plums which helps to concentrate the flavour.  I used 300g of the baked Victoria Plums.  Having eaten it I feel that a little golden demerara added to the topping and maybe some spice to the plums would be an improvement.  

Mr S liked it as it is. He asked if I was getting an extra-sweet tooth!

Sally arrived yesterday with a basket of plums from her garden.  As I have to return the basket tomorrow, the tart will still be lovely and fresh, and I hope that she and Peter will enjoy a couple of slices.  I've already made a few jars of Plum and Red Onion Chutney It will take three months or so to mature and again Sally and Peter are frequent recipients of a jar of my various Chutneys.